Don’t let the low batting average fool you: Jose Bautista is still a monster

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Jose Bautista’s batting average has hovered around .200 all season, but don’t let that trick you into thinking he’s turned back into a pumpkin after a pair of MVP-caliber years.

Bautista smacked his 15th homer last night, which puts him on pace for 43 on the season after going deep 43 times last year and 54 times in 2010. He’s also on pace to draw more than 90 walks for the third straight year, has a nearly even strikeout-to-walk ratio at 40-to-32, and ranks fourth among AL hitters in RBIs.

In other words he’s every bit the same homer-hitting, walk-drawing monster he’s been for the past two seasons, except missing 50 points of batting average. And even that’s changing, as Bautista has gone 27-for-93 (.290) in his last 25 games to raise his batting average from .177 to .228 in less than a month.

And that should continue to rise as his luck events out, because Bautista’s batting average on balls in play is currently the lowest in the entire league at .209, which is both unsustainably awful and 65 points below his career norms. I’ll be shocked if he’s not back among the AL’s top 10 in all of homers, RBIs, runs, slugging percentage, and OPS by the All-Star break.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.